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Detective Classics, Vol. 2 [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Fatal Hour
The Fatal Hour was the fourth entry in Monogram's "Mr. Wong" series, based on the gentlemanly oriental detective created by Hugh Wiley. Boris Karloff returns as Wong, supported by Grant Withers as dyspeptic police captain Street and Marjorie Reynolds as brash gal reporter Bobbie Logan. On this occasion, Mr. Wong investigates the murder of a police officer, nearly ending up murdered himself during a climactic jewelry-store robbery. The principal suspect is Belden (Craig Reynolds), the son of a crooked businessman (John Hamilton) whose perfidy has apparently caused all the trouble in the first place. The Fatal Hour was scripted by Joseph West, a pseudonym for director George Waggner (who didn't direct this one). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
The second of Universal's "modernized" Sherlock Holmes films pits the Great Detective (Basil Rathbone, of course) against that "Napoleon of Crime," Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill). Surpassing his previous skullduggery, Moriarty has now aligned himself with the Nazis and has dedicated himself to stealing a top-secret bomb sight developed by expatriate European scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.). Before being kidnapped by Moriarty's minions, Tobel was enterprising enough to disassemble his invention and distribute its components among several other patriotic scientists. Racing against the clock, Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) try to stem the murders of Tobel's colleagues and prevent Moriarty from getting his mitts on the precious secret weapon. The now-famous climax finds Holmes playing for time by allowing Moriarty to drain all the blood from his body, drop by drop ("The needle to the last, eh Holmes?" gloats the villain). Dennis Hoey makes his first appearance as the dull-witted, conclusion-jumping Inspector Lestrade. Constructed more like a serial than a feature film, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (based loosely on Conan Doyle's The Dancing Men) is one of the fastest-moving entries in the series; it is also one of the most readily accessible, having lapsed into public domain in 1969. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Terror by Night
The penultimate entry in Universal's Sherlock Holmes series, Terror by Night takes place almost exclusively on a speeding train, en route from London to Edinburgh. Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is on board to protect a valuable diamond from the clutches of master criminal Colonel Sebastian Moran. The trouble is, Moran is a master of disguise, and could be just about any one of the other passengers. Murder and mayhem plague the train excursion before Holmes can successfully complete his mention. Poor old Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) is a bit denser than usual here, though his ingenuousness is cleverly woven into the script. Alan Mowbray, who played Inspector Lestrade in the 1932 Clive Brook adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, is seen in a pivotal supporting role. One of three Holmes entries currently in the public domain, Terror by Night is also available in a computer-colorized version (but stick with the original black-and-white). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Doomed to Die
In his final "Mr. Wong" mystery, Boris Karloff solves the case of who killed shipping magnate Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang). Wentworth's flagship "The Wentworth Castle" had tragically caught on fire with a tremendous loss of life. Near suicidal, the shipping tycoon is helped into the next world by persons unknown but dunderhead police captain Bill Street (Grant Withers) points the finger at Dick Fleming (William Stelling), the son of a rival tycoon and in love with Wentworth's daughter Cynthia (Catherine Craig). Promising to eat his hat if young Fleming isn't the killer, Street can only watch as enterprising cub reporter Bobby Logan (Marjorie Reynolds) assigns Mr. Wong (Karloff) to solve the case. Which the eminent Oriental sleuth does to the point where Bobby can gleefully add salt to Street's less than edible headgear. The burning of the fictional "Wentworth Castle" was actual footage from the infamous 1934"Morro Castle" fire, a tragedy that took the lives of 137 passengers. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Dick Tracy's Dilemma
Ralph Byrd returns to the character he had originated ten years earlier in the serial Dick Tracy. This time, Chester Gould's immortal comic strip hero is called in to handle a fur theft. The owner of Flawless Furs, Humphreys (Charles Marsh), has just signed on with the Honesty Insurance Company whose investigator, Cudd (Al Bridge), made him change the combination to the vault. The insurance policy --as the head of Honesty, Peter Premium (William B. Davidson), explains -- holds the company liable if the stolen furs haven't been recovered within 24 hours of the theft. The trail leads to Longshot Lily (Bernadene Hayes), a would-be fence who is promptly arrested. But when Tracy's snitch, Sightless (Jimmy Conlin), is found brutally murdered, the detective realizes that he has more than a simple fur theft on his hands. With the help of master thespian Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith) and ever-present sidekick Pat Patton (Lyle Latell), Tracy follows a series of clues that leads him to a deserted junkyard and a fateful confrontation with fiendish killer "the Claw" (Jack Lambert). Dick Tracy's Dilemma was followed by Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), after which RKO retired the series. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Mr. Moto's Last Warning
Japanese detective Mr. Moto finds himself hip-deep in international espionage in this adventure tale. In Port Said, a pair of rogues -- French-born Fabian (Ricardo Cortez) and Englishman Norvel (George Sanders) -- are working for a nameless foreign government and devise a scheme to sabotage French ships passing through the Suez Canal. The criminals plan to leave false clues implicating British agents in hopes of sparking a war between the two nations. Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre), posing as a local shopkeeper after faking his own death to avoid suspicion, is assigned to stop them before any lives (or vessels) can be lost. John Carradine and Virginia Field also appear in this, the sixth of eight films that would feature Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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